- A Rwandan newspaper editor, Gérard Manzi, has been held for a week over dubious rape charges. The editor of the privately-owned weekly ’Umuseso’ was charged with raping an unidentified young girl, despite having a defence supported by many witnesses.
"The charges brought against Manzi are so improbable that it seems a crude attempt was made to frame him," the Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters sans frontières (RSF) reacted.
"He has been held for the past week without being brought face-to-face with his accuser or shown the official report of her interrogation. Under the most basic rules of justice, suspects must be allowed the right to defend themselves. This is clearly not the case here."
RSF called on Rwandan authorities to explain why Manzi has been held since 22 August on dubious charges.
He was arrested at a bus station by police and employees of a private security company Agespro at night when he was going home after a drink with friends at Arada bar in Cachoeira in the capital Kigali. He was arrested alongside a female minor who he had found alone at the bus station.
Manzi was taken to the Remora police station where he was interrogated the following morning before being accused of rape. He denied the charge and asked to be brought face-to-face with the young girl. The police said this was impossible because they no longer had any way of contacting the victim.
Rwandan police accused Manzi of spending the day with the young girl, who they say is a member of his family. But they were proven wrong because his friends said he had spent the afternoon at the Amahoro stadium to cover a football match. He has denied any family kinship with the girl, as he had never seen her before.
The police are yet to question the witnesses who confirmed the presence of Manzi at the stadium and the evening in a bar. But his lawyer said he would submit the signed statements of the witnesses at the prosecutor’s office today. He brims "confidence" that Manzi would be released soon.
"These are trumped-up charges," Umuseso publisher Charles Kabonero told RSF. "After failing to silence us by attacking us over our articles, the government is trying to discredit us by trapping us one by one in common-law criminal cases," he said.
‘Umuseso’ is one of the few Rwandan independent publications known for being outspoken. The paper and its staff have been repeatedly harassed with lawsuits by the authorities, forcing several of its journalists into exile.
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